Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel will be selected in the upcoming NFL Draft. Some team, somewhere will take a chance on him, likely in the role of backup quarterback.
That is the common mode of thinking with Manuel, a very good college quarterback. But that way of thinking is pre-combine. And if there is anyone who can benefit from a successful NFL Combine, it is E.J. Manuel.
Past combine history has told this story many times. An ultra-talented player comes into the combine mocked anywhere from the second to fourth round due to his poor decision-making, poor technique, off-the-field issues or any of a dozen other "problems" that hinder the prospect. When he arrives at the combine, he does well and, most importantly, runs a great 40-yard dash. Scouts, analysts and teams alike now love the player, as he rides off majestically into the first round.
Just look at Cam Newton. Although Newton was never projected to go outside of the first round, he was rarely projected as the No. 1 overall pick. Then he went to the combine. His NFL.com combine page opens with, "Newton is one of the most athletically gifted quarterbacks in draft history." Athleticism rules in the NFL, and at the combine, Newton measured in at 6'5, 248 lbs, put up a 35-inch vertical and -- again, most importantly -- ran a 4.59 40-yard dash. The rest is history.
Last season, E.J. Manuel threw for 3,392 yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Manuel, although not as freakishly athletic as Newton, has a similar opportunity with the upcoming combine. He too measures out at 6'5, but weighs slightly less than Newton. Right now he is ranked by NFLDraftScout.com as the 6th-best quarterback prospect and the 61st-rated prospect overall -- a second-round pick.
Gil Brandt of NFL.com writes that Manuel is one of several players who aim to benefit the most from the combine, for all the reasons listed above.
Manuel is going to have a chance to prove he's capable of being a first-round pick. He's probably not as athletic as, say, Colin Kaepernick, but he's still pretty athletic, and he'll be able to show that to people. This combine is very important for him, especially with regard to the physical testing that he'll get to take part in.
Many of the weaknesses listed for Manuel by NFL.com resemble the same weaknesses Newton carried into his rookie year: accuracy issues, over reliance on mobility. And most of their strengths are similar as well, especially size and speed. Obviously, Newton was the better talent, and thus the better prospect. But a rise up mock drafts following an impressive combine is certainly not out of the question for E.J. Manuel.